chevre perú: finding my way in huaraz

I’ve now been in Huaraz, Perú for one month. And I know the next two months here are going to fly by.

My first few days were a little blurry–I was fresh off of about 30 hours of travel to get from New York to Lima and then up north to Huaraz.

Huaraz isn’t the most tranquila of towns. Combis honk (and run red lights). Stray dogs wander and sometimes howl. And this summer, nearly every main road is under construction to resurface roads and mend the strained sewage system.

One of the rare construction signs. People just go about their business during the construction, and on more than one occasion I’ve nearly fallen into an unmarked ditch.

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However, Huaraz is full of friendly people, lots of activity, fun bars and restaurants, and a lively central market selling everything from whole chickens to custom-made clothes.

Veggies in the market.

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And have I mentioned the views? The city is surrounded by snow-peaked mountains, which are what draw many of the mountaineers that convene in town pre-and-post expedition.

Rooftop views of the Cordilla Blanca mountains

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In Huaraz, I’m getting a taste of small-town living. It’s hard to walk down the street or hang out in a cafe or restaurant without seeing someone you know (or who knows someone you know). In this way, it takes longer to do just about anything–yet the experience of getting something done is pretty friendly and social.

Yep, I’m in Latin America: Luly gives Katherine a dreadlock while Katherine’s pet monkey looks on.

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Anyone for a land-line call?

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I’ve become a regular at this fruit stand

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I’m currently gorging myself on these Cape Gooseberries, which I haven’t seen since Cape Town two years ago! Here they’re called aguaymantos. And they are ricisimo!

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I’ve found a living arrangement–I’m renting a room on the top floor of a guesthouse in town called Hostal Caroline. It’s a great deal, and I have access to the hostel’s amenities while also having a private room on the top floor with views of the mountains. And breakfast made for me each morning! I will sublet a friend’s apartment while she’s away for the month of August; otherwise, this will be ‘home’ till the end of September.

Mi casa amarilla en Caroline

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I have also found the lady who makes tamales. They’re like the ones in Mexico but with a twist: olives and pickled onions and ají sauce. Mmmm. Tamales should be their own food category.

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Jugos! What I love is that they don’t even have to-go cups.

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Our writing workshop is underway. We have about 35 girls between ages 11-17 enrolled in our workshop, which Ana and I are calling EscribaChica (which means “WriteGirl” in Spanish).

Ana and I have set up a blog for the workshops, where you can follow along and read work (in Spanish and English) by our awesome writers.

This week we wrote our first poems–some soon to appear on our blog–and I was blown away by some of the things the girls wrote. And it was their first time writing a poem! Creativity is just bubbling over in some of them.

Bi-lingual blogging with EscribaChica

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We’d love for you to make comments on our blog on the work we post. We plan to read any comments aloud in class to the girls. (We will translate those in English into Spanish). Trust me, they will really appreciate your comments and feedback on what they write, so don’t be shy!

Some of our writers hard at work decorating their journals on the first day of our workshops

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We just finished our second week, and after each session I leave feeling motivated and excited by the eagerness of our fledgling writers. And they are teaching me so much already.

Tania shows off the sticker she received after reading her work aloud

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As our workshops happen Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, I have the rest of the week open to explore.

So far, I’ve been to sport climbing-and-bouldering area Hatun Machay twice, and I’m eager to be a regular there! The guiding company Andean Kingdom runs a shuttle there every morning, so it’s easy to take the two hour ride. The same company runs the refujio there it has the (wonderful) vibe and feel of an Argentinian refujio (no surprise since the owners are from Argentina).

Literally, the first thing that happened when I arrived at Hatun Machay: someone walked by with a dazed sheep, just about to slaughter it for dinner that evening.

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The refujio’s gatita, Paris, who just might make me want to get a cat one day.

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Manu stops to take in the view on the way back to the refjuio.

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Sun setting over the rock forest of Hatun Machay

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Chess by candlelight

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The rock in Hatun is rough volcanic and the majority of the routes fall in the 6/7 grade range, which means I have lots of options in my grade and plenty of people climbing around my level. I’m excited to have access to such a cool place with such a lively community of climbers.

Ana choosing our next route

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Marty practicing how to volar.

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Hatun is at about 4300 meters in elevation, which is definitely a challenge! You’ll get to the top of something that felt easy, yet it feels like you’ve just come back from an intense run. The first day there I had pretty bad altitude sickness too, but hopefully the worst has passed.

On the way back to town, we caught the sun setting over the Cordilla Blanca range. We all hung out of the combi to snap a few photos of the pink illuminating the mountains!

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This past weekend, I went out on a two day hike with some people I’ve met since coming to Huaraz. We were hiking at about 4500 meters, which with a pack and about 35 kilometers to cover over the two days, made it rather tiring. Not to mention that half the time we weren’t on a set trail…and I was still not acclimated to the altitude.

After the first day, we arrived at a small lake where we rested a bit and took in the view.

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Then we made camp. Despite the extra weight, I was grateful to have a warm tent. It gets downright freezing at nighttime!

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Mountain wild flowers closing up as the sun sets

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The next day, we hiked up to a ritual cave area and then onto a second lake, where we drank from the (rapidly receding) glacial water.

Cave paintings

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Katherine hanging out at lake numero dos

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Marshy ground gives way to lush greens and tiny flowers blooming

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Then we made a slow descent back to civilization along the spine of a ridge, which gave us fantastic views of the Cordillera Blanca range

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The crew taking in the view as we reached the top

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Mountains aside, parts of the dry, brown, dramatic hills reminded me of Southern California–and I felt like a bird, given our 360-view of the magnificent scenery

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Scoping out our route back to town

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As we descended back into the valley, local campisneos helped point the way back to the combi which we needed to take back into town. We counted over 22 people crammed into the little van–not including all the babies on the backs of their mothers!

The cramped ride afforded a photo opp of this lady’s awesome hat. Many of the women here wear this style of hat.

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Meanwhile, in the (north of the) Northern Hemisphere….

Steve and co are attempting their route on The Impossible Wall in Greenland, which they were expecting to take about 10 days. Hopefully I’ll get a sat phone message soon telling me how it went!

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The rest of the photos from Perú are here, EscribaChica workshop photos are here, and the Artic Team’s photos are here.

Hasta pronto!

Posted in climbing, peru | 3 Comments

venga, bicho: discovering cataluña’s charms

Spain in photos, Angie’s version (Steve’s take here):

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Spain rocked. Who can complain about hanging with fun people, camping in peaceful places, speaking castellano, eating jamon serrano, drinking vino, and oh yeah, climbing! We only scratched the surface, but the climbing possibilities feel endless.

(Above photo: Sunset over Siruana. That’s a refujio and restaurant perched on the edge!)

Cataluña was surprisingly unpopulated, with nearly-empty ancient towns and a countryside full of of almond and olive trees. We were awed by the authenticity of crumbling centuries-old buildings, beautiful churches with hand-laid stonework, and even forts and castles!

Bees buzzing around the flowering tree in Rodellar’s churchyard

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View from the ancient Moorish fort in Siruana

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Looking over the town of Rodellar

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Knock, knock

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Cars actually fit through that entry-way!

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Spring came into bloom, from first buds of the almond trees…

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…to sampling their fruits…

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…to finding poppies dotting every windy road…

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…to seeing roses bloom in the vineyard-trail towns

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My friend Amanda joined us in Barcelona for a week, where we enjoyed some urban wonders in the city of sun, beaches, famous artists, and yummy food and drinks. One tip: if you stay in the Gracia neighborhood, you’ll avoid the maddening crowds in the more touristy parts like El Gotic.

Gaudi’s Park Guell was one of my favorite spots. Gaudi was one seriously creative guy

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Amanda soaking in the view of Barcelona

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Afternoon light on the tile work in the Park Guell

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Playing in light-and-shadows

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Hypnotic hang drum musicians (to hear what it sounds like, check out this artist’s site)

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Drinking mini-cava from straws in the streets

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Colorful street art in El Gotic

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Um, we a lot of gelato (check out the flavors: olive and Gorgonzola!)

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Day hiking to the mirador in Montserrat

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Amanda takes in Montserrat’s conglomerate formations (and makes my backpack look massive!)

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We took the train to the beach town of Sitges to soak in some rays en la playa

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Outside of Amanda’s Barcelona visit, a long-weekend with friends in Madrid, and one exciting experience in a Lleida dentist office, we stuck to simple life in the Cataluña countryside. We spent the majority of our time in Siruana but also climbed in Margalef, Rodellar, Oliana, and Montsant.

One of the charming cabañas at Refujio Kalandraka in Rodellar

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And this is the view from the refujio: the valley and river of Rodellar. In-cre-ible!

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Peaceful damn near our (gratis!) campsite in Margalef

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We had some chilly days and nights in Siruana, including a hail storm one afternoon!

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We were lucky enough to take part in several fun Spanish dinner parties, and this one featured the carving of a leg of jamon serrano. Mmmm. (P.S. Spain is not for vegetarians!)

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And… here’s where I say something about the climbing. Specifically, my own. I’ve always loved the climbing scene, but the climbing itself has proven more difficult to love! I’m scared of falling. I forget my beta. I wasn’t improving.

I came close to quitting on a few occasions, yet for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to actually give it up. I guess I wanted in on the fun everyone else seemed to be having. But I also kept thinking, maybe I’m just not cut out for this. It just doesn’t come easily to me.

I had started to realize, however, that ‘climbing’ and ‘easy’ are not necessarily words that go hand-in-hand.

So in Spain, I stopped wondering if I should climb. Instead, I just put in a little more effort. I looked for lines to project. I took more falls. I climbed on days I didn’t feel like it. And then, I felt actual progress. Quickly, that feeling of achievement started to feel addicting. Climbing–the part on the wall, not just the hanging out part–had become fun! And the challenge was part of why it was fun. Sounds simple, but I sure had been making it difficult.

I owe a big thank you to this guy for his endless patience. It’s challenging to teach your significant other how to climb, especially when she’s me! I seriously might hold the record for slowest-person-to-take-to-climbing EVER.

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Sign of crossing over to the dark side: using headlamp for non-camping purposes, such as augmenting a low-light situation for a mani-pedi. (Or maybe this is just a sign of someone who has camped too much?)

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And just like that, our two-plus months in Spain were up. I left feeling like I was just getting started! I for one am very much looking forward to España, parte dos (y tres y cuatro y…)

Mil gracias to everyone who hosted and helped us out. Espero que nos vemos pronto!

Posted in climbing, spain | 3 Comments

arrived to huaraz // sailing south of greenland

I arrived yesterday morning to Huaraz, Peru. The area feels like a mix of lots of places we’ve loved (Patagonia, Mexico, and…strangely Yangshuo, China). I’m relieved to have made it here in one (very tired!) piece and excited to find the city so full of life, friendly people, good food, and with beautiful climbing and hiking destinations nearby.

Blue, sunny skies above Huaraz greeted me today

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Meanwhile, Steve and company are sailing south of the coast of Greenland, where they’re making slow but steady progress towards land–and had their first ice encounter! They’ve been posting to their blog via their sat phone.

The team (minus Dave, who is joining them in Greenland) as they departed Scotland earlier this month

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Posted in arctic, peru, south america, updates | Leave a comment

posting from two hemispheres till october!

It seemed time for an update on our whereabouts!

Steve has teamed up with three friends South Africa (Dave, Andrew, and Ningo) and Scottish sea captain Bob Shepton (aka Captain Bob). They’re taking a 7000km journey through the Arctic’s Northwest passages to do some big wall climbing on remote walls.

For the play-by-play, you can follow along at their blog. If Andrew’s account of their first test sail is any indication, it’s going to be an entertaining read.

Here’s team’s planned route (um, yes, I married a crazy person!)

Route Map

Captain Bob’s boat, Dodo’s Delight, will their floating home for the next four months

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With Steve off to sea, I’m heading to the mountain town of Huaraz, Peru, which is an overnight bus ride from Lima. It was these amazing photos from our friend Dirk Smith that first sparked my interest, and since then, I’ve heard about Huaraz from many a climber.

I’m planning on hiking and climbing and soaking up the mountain vibe. But biggest thing on my wish-list is to set up and teach a creative writing workshop (in Spanish) for local teenage girls with our quinoa-loving, maté sipping friend Ana, who we met last year in Patagonia.

The infamous Ana, picking guindas (wild cherries) in Argentina

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Ana and I are collaborating with WriteGirl, a Los Angeles based organization that brings creative writing to teenage girls. We’ll be translating and adapting their curriculum for the young women of Huaraz. Ana won grant funding from her university to cover cost of materials, and now we’re working with an organization in Peru on the final missing piece: getting participants! I’ll share more once we have sorted out a few more details.

And so, that’s our latest! Steve and I parted ways on Friday at the Barcelona airport. I took a flight to the US, where I’ll be till mid-June when I leave for Peru. Steve flew to Scotland, where he and team are working on prepping the boat before they start the Atlantic crossing in a few days time.

It’s a big change from being together 24/7, but these trips feel almost miraculous in the way they’ve come together. We’re going to have some stories to tell when we reconvene in the States in October–and hopefully by then I’ll also have mastered all the finer points of pitching a tent on my own!

Thanks for following along–more to come!

Posted in updates | 9 Comments

la vida bella: spanish update

More to come from Angie, but I thought I’d post a few fun climbing pics and vids to spread the psyche before we fly out in a few days time. Wish we could have documented our trip here a little more but with both of us planning our next adventures the camera felt a bit heavy.

It’s true, Spain is filled with lots of creamy gorgeous limestone just like this!

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Time for some ROADTRIPPING! Dave and Micky cram into our 11 euro rental. Next stop Margalef!

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Focus! Angie getting her pockets on in Montsant

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Me feeling the burn on an on-sight attempt in Montsant. Unfortunately, one more “fell-at-the-chains” notch to the ol’ belt (now looking more like a wood-saw than a belt)

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Located at L’Olla in Siurana, Migranya Profunda was one of my longer projects during the trip. You might recognize it from Viva la Vida where Arjan onsights the bottom 3/4’s–a real achievement considering the specificness of the moves. I thought it would only take a few tries when I first got on it but for some reason things kept going wrong (first skin tears, then shoe-heels pulling off unexpectedly). Five-ten, please will you spend time designing the back of the shoe as well as you do the front! Or maybe my new Saltics can do the trick… Next thing I knew weeks had gone by and I only just managed to nab the send during our final days.

Nahuel, a crazy Argentinian bird-watching lifeguard, helped film the route

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And here is the result. Apologies for the crude edit. Hopefully my skills will come along soon!

Spanish super-star and chairman emeritus of the toprope club, Micky “the Mayor” Alcalde giving lessons in Margalef

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My first (not-soft) 8a on-sight at Somaen, an amazing 40m limestone cave near Madrid

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Video of a fun cave climb in Rodellar called Familia Manson. Filming was done on a point-and-shoot by Uri Crespo, a Spaniard we met that day.

Unfortunately we only spent a week in Rodellar right at the start of the trip so I didn’t get to try any of the mega-lines, but we were blown away by the location. One day we’ll be back!

Completely unexpectedly we ran into South African Dave Richardson in Tres Pins hotel in Margalef (population 50!) and ended up cruising around together for several weeks.

Dave, the on-sight machine, at work in Margalef

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Dave flexing for the camera on the same route

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Angie demonstrates how Dave should “just crush the move”

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Dreamy town on a hill, known to climbers everywhere as Siurana!

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Me at work on Doble Lluna, an 8b+ at the Laboratori, Margalef

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Crag food of champions. Trying out the Arjan diet…

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Dave on a very delicate traverse to get to Cova Soleada from the wrong side

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Learning how to wiggle my fingers into tiny pockets in Margalef (and then just giving up!)

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Dave, looking good at L’olla…

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…but not good enough!

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Angie trying out my own bite-your-lower-lip crux-busting technique to good effect on a 7a at Can Verduras, Margalef

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Sativa Patatica an endurance 8a at Margalef (and another notch on the wrong belt)

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Best free camping in the world! Below the dam at Margelef

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Watching the sun go down over the Siurana ruins

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Well, that’s all for now. Time to put sunshine and shiny bolts behind me and get ready for some stormy seas on the North Atlantic!

Posted in climbing, spain | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

wintery moscow: where people wear fur and lamposts wear scarves

We barely scratched the surface but still enjoyed our sampling of sprawling, bustling, glitsy Moscow in wintertime.

First step, learning to navigate the extensive metro system. The tricky part: it’s all in Cyrillic

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We could have passed the entire day inside the gorgeous metro system. Each stop has a theme, with elaborate details and moody chandelier lighting. It feels like a haunted underground

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Entering the famed Red Square

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The Kremlin wall in the Red Square

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Colorful Saint Basil’s cathedral

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We stumbled into a sweetness overload, the annual honey festival featuring whipped honey from the Russian countryside

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Of course, we indulged in a purchase

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Colorful veggies decorate the parking lot of the Dorogomilovsky Market

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Delicious stuffed pastries, a roll of the dice with what you get inside since we couldn’t read the signs or communicate. One, lamb. The other, pumpkin. Both, delicious

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Mmm pickled goods, I am in heaven

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Farmers cheese stall

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Wintery scene over the city

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Keeping the lampposts warm in Gorsky Park

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The Russians really do wear fur coats and hats

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Wintery bridal photo shoot in Gorsky Park (note white boots and the Starbucks)

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Trying (and not succeeding) to look bad-ass

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Check out those icicles!

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En route to Paris, we traded in our varied currency collection, which included Mexican pesos, New Zealand dollars, and Thai bhat. Armed with Euros, we were prepared to snatch up the first baguette we come across!

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Ah, layovers: pensive airplane shots during our stopover in the (very swank) Copenhagen airport

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allll aboard: the trans-siberian from beijing to moscow

We were ending our time in China… and we needed to get to Europe. The prospect of taking the Trans-Siberian railroad on a seven-day (non-stop) train journey from Beijing to Moscow would be much slower, slightly more expensive, and a bit more work to organize. But it appealed to the romantic traveler in us both.

First, though, the not-so-romantic stuff: obtaining tickets and visas. Tickets proved relatively easy. Apparently, not many people take this train in winter so we were in luck! The Russian embassy in Beijing, however, was mysteriously closed on the day we arrived. Luckily, we secured a rush visa the following day.

The Bradshaws are going to Russia! The Cyrillic version of our names

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Set up in style at the apartment of Tian-Tian, a friend-of-a-friend, we had a comfy stay in Beijing. The city was interesting and despite the cold temps and visa/ticket shenanigans, we had a fun few days. We must return one day to explore more when it’s not so frigid!

And we’re off! Beijing train station lit up at night

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There she is, our ride to Moscow (on the left)

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Despite our legit visas, Steve’s multiple temporary passports meant he got held in customs for a few hours at the border crossing. Luckily, the border guards were mostly interested in teaching him some Russian words, including how to ask for four liters of beer. Best not to include what they taught him on the reverse side of this paper!

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As it turns out, we should have learned how to say, “How long will this stop be?” The train made several stops each day, with each stop ranging from 10 minutes to an hour. However, as none of the train attendants spoke English nor were interested in attempts at communication, we never knew how long we had to get out and stretch our legs.

We did brave the elements (and risk of being left behind!) a few times though

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Smoked fish for sale at one of the stops. Unfortunately many of the Russian travelers loaded up on this odorous snack item!

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Steve makes an uneducated stab at the menu in the dining cart. With an all-Russian menu, it was a bit of a guessing game!

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Obligatory vodka shots. Just not for breakfast, like some of our fellow travelers. Nastarovia!

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The time went quickly. We read. We watched movies. We soaked in the snowy vistas. We made good use of the free hot water dispenser, eating lots of ramen.

Steve, chilling in our cabin. Lucky for us, no one else was in our four-person cabin until the final night. Traveling first-class at the price of economy, score!

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Only one other English-speaking couple was on the train–Brits Chris and Alex. Luckily, they regaled us with travel tales, shared movies, and generally proved to be great company.

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As for the views: it was mostly snow, birch trees, and more snow over sweeping snowy landscapes. Did I mention the snow? This was broken up by tiny villages of wooden houses and the occasional rather industrial, cold-looking city. While chilly outside, we were warm and cozy in our train… some of our fellow Russian travelers basically passed the entire trip shirtless.

Not the best scenery shots (they’re all from peering out the train window) but a few to give an idea:

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And… seven days, no shower, several books and many, many cups of tea later… we reentered the real world in Moscow

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A few tips:
– At the time of our trip, this page on Seat 61 had the most comprehensive information on the railroad options.
– To take the Trans-Siberian from China to Russia, we used CITS (the nationally-owned Chinese travel agency). We ordered the ticket online from their website, payed using PayPal, and picked them up in person at their headquarters in Beijing. It was relatively painless except they needed a few phone calls to prompt them to process our order.
– The train took European plugs.
– Bring your own food! The dining cart options are relatively expensive and harken back to the harsh days of the Soviet empire (though nice to break things up every so often). We stocked up on ramen, coffees/teas, and snacks in Beijing.
– Bring a Russian-English pocket book and learn how to say “How long are we stopping for?”

Posted in russia | Tagged | 11 Comments